Where does one go to find a brief yet thorough, informed yet readable introduction to the nature and authority of the Bible in the life of the church? Christopher Bryan’s And God Spoke admirably fills the bill.
Bryan, who teaches New Testament at the School of Theology at the University of the South, frames his discussion in terms of decision-making in the church. Drawing on examples from his own tradition, he describes a situation familiar to most readers: church leaders coming down on different sides of an issue while claiming biblical support for their respective positions. Bryan’s discussion is a serious reflection on how the church might take the inspiration and authority of Scriptures seriously without succumbing to the temptation to make the Bible an idol.
The book is divided into two segments. The first deals with what the church believes about the Scriptures. In nine chapters, Bryan covers topics such as the canon, the role of the church in interpretation, what we mean when we call the Bible “the Word of God,” and the authority of the Bible. Throughout the chapters, Bryan displays an easy familiarity with biblical and historical scholarship. He makes fair usage of contemporary situations to illustrate his points and arguments.
Bryan’s exposition is clear. In fact, many seminary-educated readers may find themselves wishing such a concise discussion had been in print during their school days! For example, the chapter entitled “The Bible as a Book of Meeting” may be the most accessible discussion of Scriptures as the self-revelation of God’s heart found in the general book market.
In the second segment, Bryan deals with the practical question of how the church would be affected by taking the Scriptures seriously. He argues that such a church would “listen” to the voice of Scriptures, study the Scriptures with serious intent, and make decisions in light of the results.
Throughout these chapters, he deals with matters such as the role of the lectionary, the preaching task, Christ-centered exegesis, and the position of the Christian scholar. The last chapter, “Making Decisions in the Light of the Bible,” should be required reading for all would-be church leaders. Bryan’s discussion of character, edification and sanctification is passionate. His call to take seriously the unity of the Body of Christ while engaged in earnest debate deserves to be heard.
The book belongs in your study and in the hands of small groups. It is worth the price.
Mike Smith is pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
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